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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Beware The Classics

Track 125 | They may be cult classics, but by and large, they're not worth owning.

I’ve been pretty focused on filling in some of the gaps in my record collection over the past few years. For the most part, in addition to adding new releases I love, it means grabbing copies of recently remastered classics which I’m either somehow missing, or have a copy in need of replacement. Case in point — the first two Jimi Hendrix Experience albums, old Tom Waits, KISS and almost every Pink Floyd or Beatles studio album.

While doing this, however, I’ve been trying to get some of those cult classic / hidden gem albums that collectors love. But what I’ve found is, by and large, they’re not worth owning. One of the first of these I sought out was Oar by Skip Spence — the former member of Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane who made one solo album after getting out of lockup for attacking a bandmate with a fire axe. Spence was a brilliant musician and songwriter, and this fragile record really is something to hear: A young man with mental illness, thrown without guidance into fame and awash in a sea of psychedelic drugs which exacerbated his mental state. Artists like Beck sing this album’s praises at great length, but I sold my copy. It’s awful. There’s one or two interesting songs. But, it’s just not worth having on vinyl. I’ll never put it on and leave it on.

Same goes for three albums I was initially excited to find in a collection I got when I bought an old console stereo off a retired couple. In there with all the Quebecois bluegrass and Abba was a copy of Kingdom Come by Sir Lord Baltimore. The 1970 banger has the distinction of being the first ever described as “heavy metal.” There’s two or three awesome songs on it — one for sure. Hard Rain Fallin’ is amazing, but for the most part — it’s song after song of loose stoner rock with awful lyrics and vibrato male gang vocals. Ugh.

I also found a copy of Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, from 1968. There’s nothing on it as good as Intro — the minute-long album opener which is kind of like Cheap Trick’s Hello There, but thumpier.

The third beloved oddball in this collection was Thank Christ For The Bomb by The Groundhogs. This album, also from 1970, even had a 50th-anniversary reissue recently. It’s terrible. Really on-the-nose Vietnam lyrics, and dated as hell. It’s nowhere near as timeless as the two Cactus records I found in the same collection. Holy goddamn, they were an incredible band. Kinda like Humble Pie but better. I mean, how could it not be? The band was Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, Jim McCarty and Rusty Day. Day is a sad story. The lead vocalist, who was also in The Amboy Dukes, was shot and killed in 1982 along with his son and dog. The crime remains unsolved.

I got the scarce debut album by Third World War for a measly $5. The working-class Brits are often credited with making the first punk album back in 1971. I even reviewed it HERE and gave it 4/5 stars, calling it essential. But, when someone offers you $100… I won’t miss it. It doesn’t hold up to repeat listens. More of a conversation piece. You should absolutely hear it, though.

This also applies to a lot of bands who Put humour first. I have sold off many of my Ween and all of my Dead Milkmen records. They’re just not “put-on-a-record” albums. Though they’re obviously at the opposite of the humour spectrum, the same goes for Closer by Joy Division, though I kept their Peel Sessions album.

I have ADHD, so I have both completist and rabbit hole tendencies, but even I won’t complete my Pink Floyd collection with Momentary Lapse Of Reason or The Final Cut… and I recently parted with Roger Waters’ dated, patchy Radio K.A.O.S., which I loved dearly when it came out. But after spinning it for the first time in 20 years, it hit the open market pretty quickly.

Same goes for a great many of my Beatles compilations — Love Songs, Reel Music, Yesterday… And Today, Something New, Beatles VI in mono and stereo and Very Together. I like to think of it as refinement. And generating capital (Capitol) to buy more.

Just don’t tell my partner.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.